My ancestor this week is my grandfather, John Ernest Whimpey. My grandfather died before I was born, so I had no personal knowledge about him.
Growing up, we spent many holidays at Kilcunda (Victoria, Australia). Every year, we passed under the railway bridge, which I had been told my grandfather had helped to build. A search of the Electoral rolls showed that from 1912 to 1913, John was a labourer at Kilcunda.
My grandfather had been born on 19 May 1884 in Newbridge. Newbridge is near Tarnagulla, which is a little bit further north-west from Bendigo. Kilcunda, on the other hand, was in Gippsland – south-east of Melbourne (it’s between Phillip Island and Wonthaggi).
So, why did John travel so far to work? Tarnagulla had been a gold rush area, but by this time the rush had ended, and the population in the area had decreased. This meant that jobs were hard to find. The 1890s depression may also have had an impact on the job situation. In 1909, the Wonthaggi Coal Mine opened, which resulted in the need for a railway line to transport the coal from the mine to Melbourne, and this meant that workers were needed. These would have been among the factors that resulted in John working so far from home. It was while he was working on the railway at Kilcunda that my grandfather met my grandmother, Ivy May Harley, who was from Woolamai.
By the time John and Ivy were married, John had moved back to Tarnagulla, and their marriage certificate shows he was working as a grocer. In 1913, John’s father Joseph bought the Criterion Store in Tarnagulla, trading as J Whimpey & Sons, and John was the son who took the most active role in the store.
John and Ivy were married on the 22 September 1914, at the Methodist Church at Kilcunda, and they lived in Tarnagulla until the end of the First World War.
At the time of their marriage, the First World War had already started, but John didn’t enlist until 16 January 1918. So that caused me to think, why did he enlist so late? He was within the age limit – since he was born in 1884, in 1914 he would have been 30. In his service record, it shows he was 5 feet 2 ¼ inches tall. The minimum height in 1914 was 5 ft 6 in, so at that time he would have been too short to enlist. The minimum height limit was lowered to 5 ft 2 in in June 1915, and then in April 1917 it was lowered to 5 ft. It would have been due to the lowering of the standards that John was finally able to enlist.
He had not yet completed his training at the Recruitment depot in Broadmeadows when then the war ended, so he never saw any active service. He was discharged from the army on the 24 December 1918.
As John had enlisted in the Army, the Criterion Store was sold on 8 March 1918. This meant that after he left the army, he no longer had a job to go to. For a few months in 1919, John and Ivy stayed with his sister Jane at 50 Dow Street South Melbourne, and their second child was born there in February 1919. John’s father Joseph died in July 1919, and John was the informant at his father’s death. His father’s death certificate shows that at the time John was living in Tarnagulla.
John’s mother had died in 1906, and now his father was dead. The store had been sold, and his brothers and sisters had all started to move to Melbourne, so this would have been why John and Ivy also moved to Melbourne. They lived for a few years in Martin Street Heidelberg, before settling at Brown Street Heidelberg. In the 1940s, John lived for a few years at Albert Park, where he ran a grocery business, while my father and his wife lived in the family home in Heidelberg. After my father’s first wife died, my grandmother Ivy returned to the home in Heidelberg to help him look after his children, and shortly after John sold the business in Albert Park, and returned to Heidelberg, where he lived until his death on 15 July 1960.